This has been a deeply demoralizing week for American media and democratic culture — one with implications that may well point to something far worse.

First, on Thursday night, Buzzfeed published a sensational scoop alleging that President Trump suborned the perjury of his former lawyer and fixer Michael Cohen. As dozens of reputable media outlets and many more media personalities on Twitter pronounced over the following day, this was an act that if true would be a very big deal. The unverified character of the allegation did nothing to keep a slew of commentators from suggesting that the president was now on the verge of facing near-certain impeachment and removal from office for his crimes. Yet on Friday night, the story suffered a severe body blow when Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s office issued a sweeping statement disputing its accuracy.

Then, on Saturday, a video appeared on Twitter purporting to show a group of high schoolers confronting and mocking an elderly Native American protestor and Vietnam veteran while wearing MAGA hats at Friday’s pro-life March for Life in Washington.